Why having a website is a must for small businesses

Having a website used to be a luxury in the yesteryears. Small businesses that are doing well for themselves will only opt for a website if they have the extra resources to build one. As times change and with everyone going online nowadays, having a website has become a must for small businesses

The numbers even speak for themselves

According to Datareportal, these are the percentages of Malaysian internet users who performed each activity in the past month (during the survey period):

  • 91% searched for a product or service to buy
  • 88% visited an online retail store or site
  • 80% purchased a product or service online 

In other words, if you’re not online, your small business is losing out on a big business opportunity

The benefits of having a website is plentiful. Having a website helps give small businesses a chance to level the fighting ground with established competitors. It also help small businesses connect with millions of potential customers

 Today, competition is fiercer than ever. Business costs are on the rise, customers are becoming more demanding, and businesses are competing for the same share of wallet.

Because of that, small business owners needs to maximize they opportunities to expose their business and get sales. If you don’t have a website, you’re losing out

Here’s why having a website is a must for small businesses:

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A website is a platform that you own

The two things you ever really own on the internet is your customer database and your website. Everything else, including your social media business pages, is either rented or borrowed

Although convenient, purely operating on a social media platform is a risky thing to do because you are at the mercy of the platform owners

Your risk is even greater if the majority of your sales comes exclusively from a social media platform. One simple algorithm change or policy change can wipe your business out

Here are some examples:

Facebook’s algorithm change

Before 2014, a majority of businesses were aggressively buying ‘likes’ for their Facebook business pages to grow their number of fans due to the high organic reach. 

In other words, for every 10 page fans you have, everytime you create a Facebook post, around 5 – 7 (50%-70%) of your fans will see it – all at no extra cost to you.

In 2014, Facebook introduced a new algorithm change that caused organic reach to drop dramatically. Today, experts estimate Facebook’s organic reach to be lower than 2%

Imagine if you were a small business that spent almost all of your marketing resources and time on buying likes and relied solely on your Facebook page to get sales – one algorithm change could sink your business overnight

Business accounts deleted without valid reasons

In 2016, Dani Diamond, a photographer in New York with 135K Instagram followers saw his account being shut down for no apparent reasons. Instagram only cited a ‘terms violation’ with no further explanation as to what terms were violated. He spent 5 years building up a following of that size

Image Credit: Dani Diamond

Dani tried to appeal with Instagram but to no avail. He suspects that one of the reasons his account got shut down was due to the abuse of the reporting tool

At the same year, when running an online contest, MD Textile – a Malaysian apparel manufacturer’s Facebook page got deleted for policy violation. They spent 6 years building their Facebook page and had 52,000 likes. 

Image credit: MD Textile

Fortunately for them, their Facebook page got restored after a week of stressful ordeal and back and forth with the Facebook business team.

Even if you manage to appeal, the time period in between could mean serious losses if your small business highly depends on that channel

The rise and fall of social media platforms

What if one day the social media platform you are on loses its popularity? What if there is a new social media platform which appeals to your target audience and they all migrate there?

If that happens, it could mean years of marketing investments and efforts down the drain.

Remember Friendster?

Friendster took the internet by storm in 2003 and was the go to social media platform. It was one of the few internet sites that hit 1 million users at that time. Long story short, it was overtaken by MySpace merely a year later 

 Don’t get me wrong though, I think social media is great. But it should be used to compliment your website instead of as a standalone tool

A website allows you to market your business online and increase your visibility

What problem does your product or services solve? What needs do they satisfy? By having a website, you can display product or service descriptions and price information in a format that is relevant to potential customers, without the typical restrictions of a social media platform

Everything in your website can be customized to best serve your customers – From formal descriptions for services tailored to other small businesses, to funky descriptions and vibrant colors to target younger customers

You can also communicate your small business’ core essence and other important information using your website too. This can be done through a particular design, your way of writing, the layout of your website, and even in minute details such as your font selection. 

For example – I use a ‘Start Here’ page to communicate our core values in another website I own

Having a website builds your credibility

Legitimacy and professionalism

By having a website that is properly done, you can give users the impression that you are a legit organisation that actually exists

Furthermore, it can also give users an impression that a small business is well established, despite it being a one-man-show

For freelancers, using a website to showcase your profile and portfolio enhances the impression of professionalism

Increasing customer trust

Because it is so easy to go online nowadays, many people are attempting it but are doing it poorly. To make things worst, there are many people who go online with malicious intentions – such as to scam people or sell products that are non existent

On top of that, businesses are also constantly bombarding customers with promotional messages. This makes it hard for them to distinguish between small businesses who are genuine or fake

A combination of these factors have caused customers to be very skeptical and careful. Increasingly, customers are doing their groundwork before they purchase something

In fact, recent studies show that 70-80% of people research a company online before before visiting the business or making a purchase in them

By having a website that clearly displays all relevant information, together with a showcase of customer reviews, customers will feel more at ease to purchasing from your small business

Credibility for other stakeholders

Credibility extends beyond just for potential customers

For instance, if your small business needs to hire someone, chances are they will check out your website vs your competitors’ website

If you don’t have a website and your competitor has one, this might influence the candidate’s consideration to join your team

There are also times where your small business might be looking for potential investors, suppliers, or even business partners

In this event, there is a high chance that these stakeholders will be doing their due diligence about your company; and not having a website might deter potential business opportunities 

Strengthening your brand 

A good website design will help to portray your small business information, products, and services in a concise and professional manner – All of which will help strengthen your brand image in the eyes of your customers

Apart from that, by providing quality information – such as in-depth reviews of your products and also professional information related to your service, you will be able to position your small business as an authority and put your company in a stronger position to make a sale

A scalable way to sell

A small business can only serve a limited radius and also a limited numbers of customers due to geographical and resource limitations

For example, a small business that is dependent on walk-ins can only realistically serve a 25KM radius around them.

Human resource wise, if your small business have 5 staff, they can only serve a maximum number of customers a day

By utilizing a website, you can remove a big part of that geographical limitation

Your website creates new sales opportunities for you by enabling your small business to reach out to people that are interested in your products but are far from you

You can also deploy tools on your website to automate many of the selling processes and increase the efficiency of your small business, thus allowing you to serve more customers

Efficiently utilizing your website is like hiring a salesperson that works 24/7 and can reach people from anywhere in the world

An example from my personal experience

The travel business is a highly interpersonal one

Therefore, it takes us approximately 1 hour to serve 1 customer. If we were to only focus on walk-in customers, 1 staff member can only serve a maximum of 8 customers per day, assuming the staff works non stop

Using our website, we first direct customers towards pages that are relevant to them

For example, we direct our customers to the FAQ page of an ongoing promotion or itineraries that they are already interested in

This way, when they come to our office, they are further down the customer journey and more prepared to buy. This indirectly reduces the time required to serve a customer

On top of that, we reply to a lot of customer enquiries online

1 staff can easily reply to 10 customers at once, and do it quicker with pre-drafted templates

They can also serve customers that are located far away from our office

Comparing to serving customers face-to-face, this method is far more efficient

These methods are also how we manage to bring in around 40% of our travel agency sales

Answer customer questions and overcome initial objections

Have you ever searched online to check whether your favorite cafe is open tomorrow? Or where that shop that stocks the product you want to buy is located at?

Most of the time, people rather search online than calling a business to find out basic information

In fact, studies show that search result information will send 70% of consumers to a physical store that’s relevant to their search results 

On top of that, local searches result in purchases 28% of the time. That’s almost 3 out of 10 customers!

Based on these numbers, not having a website means losing out on many potential sales

Having a website lets you display basic but vital business information such as location, opening hours, and also contact number

You can also use a website FAQ to proactively answer common customer questions and to help overcome initial objections that potential customers have about your product or service

This way, when customers contact you, they are further down the customer journey and more likely to purchase something from your small business

Let your best customers advertise for you

Chances are, your most satisfied customers will be happy to promote your business. You can use your website to make it easier (and not to mention, more motivating) for them to do so

Having a website makes it easier for your customers to introduce your small business to their friends – they can simply forward your website URL to their network

You can also feature testimonials from satisfied customers on your website to increase the confidence of potential customers. Authentic reactions from real people work very well to achieve that

If you want to ‘level-up’ your game, you can even create a unique landing page with your best customers’ names and incentivise them to send that link to their friends

Understand your customers better

Having a website will give you an in-depth understanding of your customers that you just can’t get with any platform that you don’t own

By using analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, you can understand the behavior of the people who visit your website

For example, if a majority of your website visitors visit an in-depth product explanation article you posted, it might indicate an interest and an opportunity for you to carry those products

The more data you have, the better understanding you have of your customers, the more you can use this information to:

  • Create new content
  • Run better promotions
  • Identify new business opportunities (such as the need to create a new sub-service or product)
  • Fine tune your internal processes

On top of that, you can use your website to separate customers with the most potential through lead generation activities such as newsletter signups, voucher downloads, and e-book downloads

These days, small businesses who don’t have websites are at a major disadvantage. Furthermore, it’s much cheaper, and not to mention, easier, to set up a website today. You can even use DIY website builders such as Wix to do it yourself. There’s really no excuse not to have a website, especially if you’re a small business owner



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